No one likes to visit the dentist, but some people experience a kind of anxiety that may turn into a fear or even a phobia. Dentophobia is a very common affliction and is also referred to as odontophobia, dental fear or dental anxiety. Phobias related to blood and needles may also prevent people from visiting their dentist for routine dental care.
The most common way of developing dental fear is direct experience. Most people have reported that a difficult, traumatic or painful dental experience as the reason for developing the phobia. Another factor that contributes to the phobia is the dentist’s perceived manner. It was found out that dentists considered to be impersonal, uninterested, uncaring or cold caused a higher level of dental fear in children when compared with others who were considered to be warm and caring.
Dentophobia may also develop as people learn about the traumatic experience of others and hear negative views about the dentistry. The negative depiction of dentistry in cartoons and media also contributes to a person’s fear. Dentophobia can develop because of a prior traumatic experience even if it is in no-dental context. Further, research studies have shown that a feeling of helplessness and a perceived lack of control causes fear.
Dentophobia – Fear of Dentists: Symptoms And Treatment Options
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In general, women report dental fear more than men and more young people experience the phobia when compared with older individuals. Further, people experience more fear when it comes to invasive procedures than less invasive treatment.
Symptoms of Dentophobia
As is the case with any phobia, the symptoms of dentophobia may vary from person to person based on the severity of the fear that they are experiencing. Typically, the symptoms include dread, extreme anxiety, and those related to panic such as rapid breathing, shortness of breath, irregular heartbeat, excessive sweating, dry mouth and nausea, among others.
Treatment Options for Dentophobia
Fear of dentists, dentophobia, is sometimes diagnosed with the help of an instrument for fear measurement such as the Modified Dental Anxiety Scale or Corah’s Dental Anxiety Scale. However, to treat dental anxiety, a combination of pharmacological and behavioral techniques is employed.
Dentists use behavioral strategies such as positive reinforcement, non-threatening language and tell-show-do. Behavioral treatments that are more specialized include teaching relaxation techniques (progressive muscle relaxation and diaphragmatic breathing) and cognitive techniques (guided imagery and cognitive restructuring). It has been seen that both relaxation as well as cognitive strategies significantly reduce dentophobia. Systematic desensitization is a cognitive restructuring technique that is used by psychologists to help people overcome anxiety disorders and phobias.
Pharmacological techniques employed to manage dentophobia may range from use of mild sedatives to administration of general anesthesia. Dentists often use behavioral and pharmacological techniques in conjunction. Nitrous oxide is a medication that is commonly used by dentists to reduce anxiety. Oral sedatives such as benzodiazepine or triazolam are sometimes prescribed by dentists. Patients may feel calm and sometimes drowsy at the time of dental treatment, but they will be conscious and can communicate with the doctor and staff. In the case of general anesthesia, the sedation will be deeper and patients will not respond to physical or verbal prompts.
Cure The Fear of Dentists
A recent survey found that fear of dentists affects one in four people. However, it is likely to be a much higher figure in reality … it’s THAT common so you can see that you’re NOT alone! You need not live with dentophobia – you CAN beat your fears: